MCU fans often talk about their desire for a coming day of glory when Marvel Studios will get back the rights to the characters sitting at Fox, primarily X-Men and the Fantastic Four.  While some fans are ok with X-Men remaining at Fox with the recent success of films like Deadpool and Logan, most feel like the consistent mess that is the Fantastic Four franchise would do well to return so Kevin Feige could do his magic with that property.  These hopes for a reunification get stoked from time to time when someone makes a public comment about them.  Stan Lee, the creator of most of Marvel’s most marketable characters, is now the latest to make such comments, this time at Nashville’s Wizard World.

Sooner or later, they’re going to get the rights back to all our characters…They’re working on it, and they’re still making X-Men movies and stuff. Don’t worry about it. You’ll get more Marvel superheroes than you’ll have time to look at in the next few years.

This bit has been picked up by a lot of sites, knowing that this talk always stirs up conversations (and clicks). I don’t blame them.  We like clicks too!  And I’m writing about it.  But I’d like to shift here into editorial mode for a moment and explain why I think this quote is largely meaningless.

First of all, who is Lee talking about?  “They” are working on the contracts and “they” are making X-Men movies?  Is this the same group of people?  Is Fox working on bringing the X-Men back to Marvel?  Why would they do that?  Given they have increased their production of films and TV, the evidence suggests quite the opposite.  Right now Fox is riding high on what they are doing.

Second, “you’ll get more Marvel superheroes than you’ll have time to look at.”  I’m not sure Lee cares who makes these movies.  He has an important, and understandable, role as Marvel cheer leader.  When it comes time to promote a Marvel film, be it Fox, Sony, or Disney, he shows up and says nice things about it.  Lee is a relentless promoter and still great at pushing the “Make Mine Marvel” approach.  So he compliments all Marvel films.  He does cameos in everything, regardless of the studio.  If Fox is still making X-Men movies and Stan is still getting called in to do cameos, I doubt he’s crazy upset about the “cinematic universe” in which they exist.

Third, I really don’t believe that Lee has much a role in the higher levels of planning the films at Marvel, these days.  I saw him in person recently, and he was funny and engaging.  But he also is clearly struggling with a variety of physical and mental ailments that you would expect from a man who is 94 years old.  He mentioned that he no longer can see well enough to read or write.  His hearing is poor and needs fan questions repeated loudly from someone feet away.  At times his memory slipped,  even forgetting Steve Ditko‘s name when discussing Spider-Man’s creation.  Don’t mishear me, it was amazing to see him in person.  In some ways, he is remarkably witty and on top of his game.  His legacy deserves honor and a season of basking in the convention love.  It just seems terribly unlikely that Feige has high-level contract discussions with Fox, including conversations about decisions worth billions, and then immediately calls up Stan Lee to tell him what is happening.  It is even more unlikely, when you see how Marvel handles Lee at conventions.  He is revered by Marvel staff, but they also are aware that he is in the twilight years as a living legend.

I don’t mean to be a big wet blanket on this quote, I just think that realistically this doesn’t mean much.  I think that Marvel is always open to bringing those characters back and that is what they have told Stan.  But I also think that the current environment makes a Marvel/Fox deal far less likely than years back.  If the collapse of Fant4stic Four wasn’t enough to drive them to the table, they won’t do so with the overwhelming buzz they have now for their work on Logan and Deadpool.  There is always some room for hope.  If Disney got serious and ponied up four or five billion dollars, I’m sure Fox would take the call.  But for now, my guess is that Lee’s “sooner or later” is definitely “later.”


[amazon_link asins=’B01IW2DC9S’ template=’ProductAd’ store=’mcurhiannon-20′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’2fcdf50b-998b-11e7-a679-c7f083d87d66′]